The link below is to a short video from The Atlantic featuring interviews with a journalist who stopped using soap and body cleaning products for 10 months, with the founder of a company who makes skin product that constitutes nothing but nitrosonomas eutropha, a common bacteria found in soil, and one of the pioneers of microbiome research (who “rarely showers”, but bathes often). Their professional opinions? That aside from hand-washing, we don’t really need to use soap on our bodies.
I’ve had a fraught relationship with soaps and body washes and skin cleansers for my whole life. As a kid I often had to take oatmeal baths for my eczema, and when I wasn’t dealing with scaly rashes, I was constantly waging a war against skin that was both bone-dry and acne-prone. I quickly learned that my acne wouldn’t respond to anything but birth control. I tried everything short of prescription cleansers and ointments, and realized that it was all a just waste of money, so after college I stopped washing my face with much of anything but water. Even post-hysterectomy and post-hormone regimen, my acne is still considerably more manageable than it was just a few years ago.
I still liked using body cleansers when I could afford them, though. I liked the way they smelled, and I still had this idea in my head of what being hygienic and clean meant – that is, it meant resembling something smooth and sterile rather than an actual human body that’s half comprised of bacteria!
I made the switch from fancy gel washes to bar soap when I started doing the zero waste thing, but my soap application was pretty much restricted to a few key places – I’m sure you can guess what they are – rather than every inch of skin everywhere. What I began to notice, though, was that that light sheen of natural oil that I once thought of as a mark of being “gross” began to become a new, healthy normal. It didn’t smell, nor did it rub off as grime. So I paid attention to what it felt like having that on my skin, and after a while, decided that I liked it. It certainly felt better than drying myself out, killing everything on my skin, and replacing all that lost moisture with some overpriced body lotion. I can’t stand the feeling of that oil being stripped away now – of being bone-dry or greasy from lotion again.
For those of us using a no-poo regimen based on the knowing the benefits of leaving the hair’s natural oils intact, then maybe it’s time to consider the skin in a similar way!
I’ve only got one cleaning agent in my shower these days – a bar of soap for the pits. I use rye flour and a little cider vinegar on my hair now (thanks to a tip from one of my readers!), but a few tablespoons of that gets mixed up before every shower and doesn’t sit around or it’ll go rancid. Dirt cheap, healthy, and no more time consuming than using a normal shampoo/conditioner regimen with a leave-in product afterward. Win-win-win.